Old Teen Essays
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Article ID: 4561
Age Group: Adult
Posted: May 20th. 2002
When There is No Turning Back
It's one of those questions that we often ask of children. I had just loaded my latest haul of books into the backseat of the car and was rubbing the pressure bruise off of my arm (So many books, so little flexor muscle strength!) when that question just popped into my head. Huh? Looking around the library parking lot, I half expected to see my senior year English teacher, Mr. Simpson, tapping his foot impatiently against the asphalt while waiting for the answer. Instinctively, I blurted out, "The Red Badge of Courage!" Flashing a sheepish grin to the guy sitting in the next car, I pretended to be checking off titles on some imaginary clipboard on the seat next to me. But if you had pulled Mr. Simpson for senior English like I had, you'd understand. Mr. Simpson had this 'thing' for the J.C. (Jesus Christ) complex in literature. All heroes, in the world according to Simpson, possessed this willingness to sacrifice himself or herself in one way or another for a greater good or cause. If a student could find this connection in whatever book that we were studying at the time, one could pretty much rest easy that one would get a 'B' on the test. But even though he had this quite peculiar romantic streak, Simpson was also one of the toughest teachers that I have ever known. Gandhi himself would never have scored a clean 'A' in that class. So, that such a question should come in Mr. Simpson's voice didn't surprise me. That such a question should come up at all, however, did.
"So, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
At 51 years-old, I'd have to say that I have been 'grown up' for quite a while now and a quick glance into the rearview mirror confirmed that the 'laugh lines' and the silver hair are indeed still there to prove it. So what's your point, Mr. Simpson, and what are you doing in my head after all of these years? I haven't heard from you since 1969 and by the way, I always hated 'The Red Badge of Courage'. (Just so you know.) Are you disappointed that I didn't become that English Lit teacher or a published poet? Yes, those were indeed my goals at 19 and I wasn't just sucking up to Mr. S. when I said so. Of course, I wanted to be an archaeologist shortly after I had 'discovered' Ancient Egypt and an artist when I finally got my very first box of 64-color Crayolas- you know, the one with the cool sharpener on the back- too. And I ended up being none of those things either. But how did I end up here?
I took a right onto Belcher Street at the light and then another right at the... Okay. I actually do remember how I ended up here. Whew! At least I know that I can find my way back when these books are due. But just how did I find myself here- as in sitting in a library parking lot, talking to my inconveniently invisible (Good use of alliteration there, Wren) former English teacher and all the while hopefully reassuring the guy next to me that I am not really a danger to small children- was the question that I now was forced to ponder. The wide disparity gap between what I wanted to be then and who I actually grew up to become seems to indicate a failure of sorts if one is so inclined to chart and score these things. Truth is, I didn't achieve any of the career goals that I had set for myself back then. That may have disappointed some people. In fact, I am sure that it has disappointed some people. But no regrets here. I wouldn't have it any other way.
If you've ever been thinking about what to cook for dinner and then 20 minutes later found yourself wondering how it is that mosquitoes always seem to find you (and just you) in a crowd, then you know how one thing can just lead to another until you are in a very different spot from hence you started. Life is like that, too. What we start out to do- or to become- often takes us to places and through experiences and into areas that we never even dreamed of before. The results can be a bit-shall we say- quirky?
And yet, if we sit down and retrace our steps, we often find that there is a plan of sorts at work. Now just whose plan that might be is something that I think that we all wonder about from time to time. It seems, in retrospect, that certain people or circumstances presented themselves at just the right time or place to influence or move us in one direction or another. One's life seems to be made up of a few radical, conscious path-altering decisions surrounded by a multitude of small almost unconscious ones. Most of the time - and at the time - none of those 'little' choices seem to be very important at all. But when we begin to put them all together we often realize just how much impact that an otherwise insignificant decision to 'go here' or to 'try that' had upon our then unknown future. One small such incident can set up a scenario that eventually changes everything.
If then we are so often ignorant of the forces that sometimes guide our way, how can we know that the decisions that we have made-the choices that have led us to where we now are- are/were the right ones? Should I be feeling guilty about not finishing college and not becoming an English Lit teacher or an archaeologist because those were goals that I had once set for myself? Did I end up here as just another victim of circumstance, much like a leaf floating downstream on the current, by no will of my own? How do we know when or if things have turned out the way that they were 'supposed' to?
You know that you are right where you are supposed to be when you realize one thing. When you feel it with all of your being. When speaking the very words sends chills down your spine. When you look at all of those decisions- both large and small- which brought you to where and to who you are now and know that, even if you could, you would not change a single one of them if it meant that you might end up somewhere else than where you are right now.
That is not to say that each individual action is necessarily worthy of praise. We all have done things that we should not have done. And we have left undone many things that we should have been taking care of. But added all together, the triumphs and the failures, the joys and the sorrows, the good and the bad (and sometimes the very ugly), we can see that these were all the steps and the lessons that brought us to the point where each one of us can truthfully say in our heart of hearts: "For me, there is no turning back."
Even when I am discouraged, there is no turning back. Even when I am misunderstood, there is no turning back. Even when I am tired of fighting this uphill battle against the majority paradigm, there is no turning back. Even when it would be easier to be silent, there is no turning back. Even when some people in my own community abuse my trust, there is no turning back. Even on those days when I wonder if anything that I do will make any sort of difference at all, there is no turning back. I am a Pagan and I always will be a Pagan; there is no turning back. I serve the Gods and I serve Their people and there is no turning back. Whatever may come, I will stand up and meet it because for me, there is no turning back.
And that is how you know if you are where you are supposed to be and doing what you are supposed to be doing. You could be doing anything else. You could still choose to do something else. You have free will. You could change your mind because this Pagan path is too hard. You could keep silent because speaking out as a Pagan is too dangerous. You could always become something else because certain people are disappointed that you became a Pagan. You still could.
But you won't. When you get to that place where you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, you won't. So sorry, Mr. Simpson, if you are disappointed. I am not what either you or I expected me to be back in 1969. Neither you nor I could see it then, but another path was opening up ahead that ultimately would lead me to right here and right now.
And, for me, there is no turning back.
Walk in Love and Light,
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, May 20th., 2002
Photo Credit: Thanks go out to Wvox staff photographer Don "Two Eagles" Waterhawk (Web) for this powerful image. (location: Wendyl and Bill's ritual space in Ft. Meyers, Florida).
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